Once upon a time, Oriental Beauty was called as Formosa Tea in Europe. In the past, this tea was very popular and people enthusiastically looked for it. At that time, it was said that 15kg of Oriental Beauty was equivalent to the cost of a house in Taiwan. The reason why people love this tea is because of its sweet fruity flavor. The secret of this flavor is caused by tiny green flies that attack the tea leaves beginning early summer onwards. The tea leaves that were bitten by green flies will change into yellow in color and the tea leaves produce an antibody which gives a fruity flavor. It is a very tedious work to only select and pluck the leaves attacked by green flies. Not only the tea garden has to be maintained without using Pesticide, it needs a lot of good luck to get this tiny insect flown down.
History and Culture
Once upon a time, legend has it that a farmer left his tea garden as he was too busy to look after it. His tea garden was terribly attacked by a large number of green flies. All the bitten tea leaves changed into yellow in color. Nevertheless, he still processed the tea leaves as he could not afford to give up his tea. To his surprise, the tea processed from insect bitten leaves gave a very strong fruity flavor. Coincidentally, a European tea merchant noticed this tea. He loved its quality very much and named it as Formosa Tea. It is believed that this is the prototype of Oriental Beauty. However it is slightly different from the conventional Oriental Beauty. The processing method of Oriental Beauty is changes year after year. According to the older generation, during their young age, the method of making Oriental Beauty was quite different. In any case, there is no change in plucking of tea leaves. They only select the leaves that are attacked by green flies. Usually each twig consists of one bud and two leaves.
Oriental Beauty is only made from the tea leaves that are attacked by the green flies flown down which appear during June to July. Due to the increasing demand of this tea, China started to produce the tea which shares the same name, yet you can hardly enjoy the identical muscatel flavor of Oriental Beauty. In Taiwan, it depends very much on luck whether the green flies return to the same tea garden. Farmer has to keep his tea garden as natural as possible with the hope that green flies will return this year.
The Yellow Spots seen below the green fly (center) is the evident that tea leaf has been bitten by the green fly.
Tea garden is located in Xin-zhu (新竹县 ). The altitude is about 1000m a.s.l. Tea garden gets sun shine only in the morning whereas from the afternoon onwards, the entire tea garden is covered by a thick fog. Due to the fog and higher altitude, the taste and flavor of the tea is very thick and it gives a very smooth drinking feeling.
Cultivar and Plucking
Oriental Beauty is made from the cultivar called青心大冇. During June to July, many green flies attack the tea garden located on top of the mountain. The green fly likes to suck the juice of young leaf and those leaves attacked by green fly will changes its color into yellow. It is said that the tea garden sometimes emits a sweet fragrance caused by the leaves that have been attacked by the green flies.
The mechanism of formation of the mysterious fragrance is yet to be fully revealed. We assume that the tea leaves attacked by these insects will subsequently produce some kinds of antibody. Usually the antibody of plant is called Phytoalexin. It is known that there is a type of Phytoalexin which gives a fruity aroma. It is a small molecular substance called terpenoid. We wonder if this substance has anything to do with the flavor of Oriental Beauty.
Non-Pesticide Tea Garden is necessary to get green flies attracted down to the tea garden. But this is not sufficient. It also very much depends on luck.
The tea leaves bitten by green flies turns into a yellowish color and its shape also changes.
Plucking is carried out to select only the tea leaves which have been attacked by green flies. Only one bud and two leaves are carefully plucked by hand.
After plucking, the tea leaves are spread over the ground under the natural sunshine. It is called Sunshine Withering. Usually clouded weather is ideal to grow this tea in order to avoid excessive damage to the tea leaves. If the sunny weather continues, a black cloth is used to cover the tea leaves to block out the harsh rays of sunshine. With sunshine withering, moisture inside the tea leaf gets evaporated and fermentation is moderately triggered. The tea leaf will gradually start releasing a refreshing aroma.
The method of fermentation for oolong tea is completely different from that of black tea. After the sunshine withering is completed, tea leaves are conveyed into the factory and spread over a sheet. The tea leaf used for Oriental Beauty consists of only single bud and two leaves, which is different from that of ordinary high mountain oolong tea whereby 4 to 5 leaves are required. In making the Oriental Beauty, as the moisture content of tea leaf is generally higher than ordinary high mountain tea, the withering process of Oriental Beauty takes a much longer time. With a longer withering period, it accelerates hydrolysis and oxidation process which will in turn generate the typical sweet flavor and taste of Oriental Beauty. The tea leaves are then tossed onto a bamboo tray. This agitation and tossing, causes friction which in turn causes the tea leaves to start fermentation. The tray is then placed on a rack and these processes are repeated several times. This is called fermentation. Tea leaves gets oxidation mediated by the oxidative enzyme when the tea leaves get bruised. The fermentation of Oriental Beauty takes a longer time than that of ordinary oolong teas. As the tea leaves are tender and fragile, the process is carried out in a very gentle manner. Once the tea master finds that fermentation is sufficiently achieved, the tea leaves are then sent for heat treatment in order to arrest further fermentation. If this is not carried out swiftly, the tea leaves will keep on fermenting and it will finally turn into black tea.
The number of rotation and timing of fermentation is judged based on the moisture content, flavor and color of tea leaves. This decision requires top-notch experienced tea technicians and it affects the quality of tea tremendously. All technicians follow the instruction of a tea master. In order to get good quality tea, we need to pick out an excellent tea master.
At first, tea leaves are rolled by a rolling machine. For Oriental Beauty, the bag rolling is not carried out so as to protect the tea leaves from cracking. Strong rolling process may destroy the tea leaves and it causes bitterness, astringency and impure taste. Thus rolling process is traditionally conducted under moderate pressure and motion. During the rolling process, the temperature of tea leaves drop and it become brittle. The tea leaves are then heated in a drum at 60-80 degree Celsius to soften it. If the pressure of rolling is too hard, tea leaves will generate a different taste; on the other hand, if it is too soft, tea leaves gives much weaker taste. The same sequence is repeated several times. Each parameter is varied depending on the condition of tea leaves such as the moisture content. The skilled tea master has to carefully examine the condition of tea leaves and apply the suitable method in each process. It requires a great deal of precision and expertise.
After this rolling process is completed, the tea leaves are dried and this will reduce the moisture content down to 5%.